Historic abortion legislation moved a step closer last night after it was voted through the Dáil.
Following several hours of heated debate on various amendments and an agreement among TDs to sit until midnight the legislation passed by 90 votes to 15, with 12 abstentions.
It will now move on to the Seanad where similar debate is expected, however the passage of the legislation through the Dáil will boost hopes it can be passed before Christmas to allow services to get underway in January.
Health Minister Simon Harris welcomed the vote as a “significant step”.
“We pass this Bill today just six months after the people had their say,” he said.
“I would particularly like to thank all those people who recognised the need for our discourse to be respectful of differing views, and of the sensitivities involved, particularly for those who have experienced termination of pregnancy,” he said.
However, there were chaotic scenes in the Dáil throughout the evening as proceedings repeatedly descended into farce. Speakers were interrupted on several occasions with shouting matches breaking out.
Relations soured further among TDs on opposite sides of the issue. At one point, pro-choice TD Kate O’Connell told pro-life advocates: “We won. Ye lost … it must be hurting.”
Offaly’s Carol Nolan complained that “not one part” of the debate had been civilised.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also drew fire for comments about the Rural Independent grouping attempting to filibuster the legislation.
Group TDs repeatedly rejected the suggestion their interventions were designed to stall the passage of the law.
Meanwhile, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference met in Maynooth yesterday and bishops said they were “dismayed” by the Dáil debate.
In a statement, the bishops said: “For the most part, the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored.
“Even what many people would have deemed to have been very reasonable legislative amendments seeking to provide women with information and to prohibit abortion on the grounds of sex, race or disability, have been rejected.”
Elsewhere a group representing pro-choice doctors and obstetricians moved a scheduled meeting from Limerick’s maternity hospital to a “secret” location, after concerns were raised that it would attract protests.
Start (Southern Taskgroup on Abortion and Reproductive Topics) moved its Tuesday meeting to a secret location two hours before it was scheduled to start. Medical sources confirmed management received “emails and phone calls” in which they were accused of being “abortionists”.